Q: “I came across an article online that said to use what they called ‘top hand dominance.” Here’s a quote from the article: “Whichever hand becomes higher as the steering is turned we call the dominant hand. This is the hand providing the most force and control over the wheel. The non-dominant lower hand has an important role to play as well though. You might think of the lower hand as a boxer’s counterpunch being at the ready to instantly snap out when needed for a quick transition or correction. A driver will need to be able to seamlessly switch their dominant hand back and forth as they steer so that they always have the greatest control on the wheel available. The reason we emphasize that one hand should be dominant instead of equal force from both hands is that the best control is only achieved over about a 180 degree sweep of each hand. The right hand is best from about the 10 to 4 position and the left hand is good from about the 8 to 2 position. A driver can go further if necessary, but control starts to suffer. Luckily, for most cars, only the very tightest of turns require a driver go beyond this range.’ What are your thoughts on this?”
A: I don’t buy into the whole dominant hand thing. I’d go so far as to say to complete ignore this advice, since it’s… well, silly. Driving is a two-handed sport!
I’ve played a lot of other sports, and coached tennis and lacrosse. Never once have I told a tennis player that one hand is dominant when hitting a 2-handed backhand; never once did I tell a kid to use one hand more than another with his lacrosse stick. Yes, I’ve told them how to hold the racket or stick, but not that one hand should be dominate over the other. I don’t remember ever being coached in baseball or hockey to use one hand more than another.
Sure, when turning a steering wheel, there is a natural tendency for one hand to do less work when near the bottom of the “clock,” but that’s the point — it’s natural.
There are a few people (but a small minority) in motorsport who say you should push up on the steering, and there are others who say you should pull down on the steering wheel. Why not use both hands? Equally. That’s where smooth, controlled steering inputs come from. Dominating with one hand or the others leads to less control.
I spent a few days with a group of drivers years ago, having them experiment with different techniques — some pushing up (which is similar to what this article suggests), some pulling down, some shuffling, some re-positioning, some holding tight, some holding lightly, etc. The results were simple: when drivers focused on using both hands equally, keeping their hands at 9 and 3, working the wheel smoothly and deliberately… and then “forgetting” any of this and just driving, they performed the best.
By the way, telling drivers to push up, pull down, shuffle, or whatever reminded me of an old tennis tactic that some of us would use: Just before an opponent was to serve a game, and as we were trading sides, I’d ask, “When you serve, do you inhale or exhale?” 🙂 You can guess what would happen ‑ lots of missed serves because the player was thinking about something they shouldn’t be thinking about.
My suggestion to a new or lesser-experienced track driver is to keep both hands on the wheel at the 9 and 3 o’clock position, be aware of how they’re turning the steering wheel, but then to “let go” (not physically let go of the steering wheel!) and just drive. Sure, if they’ve been one-handing the steering wheel, this is going to help a lot, but I don’t want them to over-think it.
Keep two hands on the wheel at 9 and 3, be smooth and deliberate with turning it, and let both hands share the work equally. Driving is a two-handed sport.